Ring of Honor: Promo's Done Right!
The interviews on a wrestling show, which have become known by their insider term, "promos" are as important to professional wrestling as the inside the ring work is. Sadly, they are also a lost art. During my time in the business, as a commentator, and backstage interviewer, I often struggled to get anyone to agree to do "promos." When I found wrestlers who were willing, they were almost always the same three or four guys. When I would convince someone new to do one, just about every time, they would ask for my direction, even asking me "What do you want me to talk about?" This is why I am excited over how good the promos on ROH TV, and ROH Week by Week YouTube show have been.
I find myself wondering who teaches and directs promos and promo classes at ROH? Seriously, they have been so damn good. It's clear to me that they are going with the UFC's style of presentation with these things. We get insight from both wrestlers (fighters) before a match, including clips of other matches, discussions about their training, goals, and sometimes even life before wrestling, etc. It really is how wrestling should be presented in 2021, as well as moving forward. They are keeping the KEY element of promos in as well, as each wrestler will put their opponents skills, and abilities over, while telling us why they are still going to defeat them. I've also seen guys that I've never seen give a good promo, doing these things perfectly, so someone is clearly leading/directing them extremely well. Brian Johnson's most recent one about Dragon Lee is an example of the perfection of this style, but check out the interviews with Joe Keys and Dak Draper on last weeks "Week by week" to see another example of this being done to perfection. Kudos to ROH, and all the wrestlers pulling these off. They are amazing! Then we also get post match interviews, again, much like UFC does after their fights, with someone "standing by" to get the winners and losers immediate thoughts. This works, as this is when a wrestler is most passionate, I would say even more so than before a match. I've told you time and again how Ring of Honor is Wrestling Done Right, this includes the fact that they are also Promo's Done Right!
For years I’ve scoured the wrestling scene for “Wrestling Done Right.” Often I’ve been ridiculed for insisting that I know what that is. I’ve taken heat from people in the business for choosing that name for my website, and accepting “The wrestling snob” as my nickname. How dare I insist that only the wrestling that I like is wrestling done right! A wrestling snob isn’t a good thing! Wrestling is for everyone! Through it all I’ve kept at it, because damn it, wrestling needs a wrestling snob to help highlight the good, true, legitimate, professional wrestling. So what is real, true, legitimate, wrestling done right? If you have to ask that question, you’ll never accept any answer I give you. Much like In 1964, when Justice Potter Stewart tried to explain "hard-core" pornography, or what is obscene, by saying, "I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced... but I know it when I see it ..." What is “Wrestling Done Right?” Well, I know it when I see it.
Today however I bring to you a better answer. Thanks to Ring of Honor’s “Foundation,” which its leader, Jonathan Gresham himself dubbed me a part of, The Pure Division is wrestling done right! That’s not to say that I hate any wrestling that isn’t part of the Pure division, or that no matches outside of it ever qualify as wrestling done right to me, but if I am going to point to something that defines what I feel wrestling is, and should be represented by, it’s guys like Jonathan Gresham, Jay Lethal, Tracy Williams, Rhett Titus, Wheeler Yuta, Fred Yehi, and others out there like The World Famous CB, Dak Draper, and Josh Woods. I have no desire for wrestling to be presented like Saturday Night Live, or any kind of slapstick variety hour show. While wrestlers can be different, and styles don’t have to be the same, wrestling needs to be presented like a legitimate athletic contest, like a fight, like sports combat. Wins and losses should matter, weight divisions should matter, and titles should absolutely matter, and nowhere is all of those things more true than inside the Pure Division of Ring of Honor. In fact, it’s so true that the problem with having the Pure Championship is that if tends to over shadow the World championship. I would argue that this is why Ring of honor unified those two titles in August of 2006, when ROH World champion, Bryan Danielson (now Daniel Bryan of WWE fame) defeated Pure champion, Nigel McGuinness. I don’t see that happening this time because wrestling has never needed a “Pure” division more than it does now.
Many fans today don’t even know, or understand, what legitimate professional wrestling is. Most fans today believe that wrestling is whatever the wrestler, or wrestling company (i.e. booker) wants to present it as. There is no standard in the wrestling business today. There’s nothing to point to and say THAT is professional wrestling! Well, I should say that there wasn’t anything. Now that ROH have brought back the Pure division, there absolutely is! Think of other professional athletics. We have the NFL, the NBA, MLB, and the NHL. While there are countless teams and league around the world playing football, basketball, baseball, and hockey, the professional leagues I mentioned are the standard by which all others are measured by. Look, I enjoy NCAA football far more than the NFL, but I am not going to say that the NCAA measures up in talent to the NFL. I have a local AHL hockey team that I love, but I am not going to insist that they measure up to their NHL franchise team. I would argue that this same thing is true of ROH’s Pure division. You have to be a special talent to find yourself in the Pure division. Many in wrestling today are afraid of it, not even wanting to try their hand at it. To be a “Pure” wrestler, you really have to know how to “work,” and in today’s business, that’s a tall order. I will go so far as to say that in order to be just a fan of the Pure division, you have to be an intelligent fan, not just a fan that wants to see moves, or “car crash” matches that you can chant “Holy S**t” to. Pure wrestling is here to save wrestling from the foolish, goofy, no sense making, parody, that it has become over the years. I am more thankful for the Pure Division, and “The Foundation,” than I can express here in this article. So let me just conclude by saying thank you Ring of Honor, and thank you to The Foundation for Pure wrestling…for Wrestling Done Right!
The World Famous CB Gives Me Hope
I’ve been a big fan of Ring of Honor since their debut in 2002. Having tired of “modern” wrestling, even before ROH came on the scene, I was willing to give this new company a shot. With men like AJ Styles, Bryan Danielson, CM Punk, Chris Daniels, Samoa Joe, and Low Ki, and the company’s focus of “honorable competition,” it sounded to me like something wrestling desperately needed. I traveled all over the place for ROH live shows, especially Philadelphia, and Baltimore. I met, and even interviewed numerous ROH wrestlers, and when I got into the business as a commentator, and back stage interviewer, I worked with many of them as well.
Much of what ROH did was excellent, some of it wasn’t, but overall I remained a big fan and supporter, up until Cody Rhodes, and The Young Bucks pretty much took over the company. I enjoyed those times for a while, but it eventually got tiresome. This just wasn’t the ROH I had grown to love, and while I didn’t “hate on them” on social media, or anywhere really, I slinked away to enjoy some wrestling in Japan (Puroresu, to the IWC) companies like Stardom, AJPW, and NOAH. After the founding of AEW, taking “The Elite” away from ROH, I was ready to get back on the ROH train, but then I read that Marty Scurll would be booking the company. Knowing “Party Marty’s” willingness to silly things up, I decided to stick with my Puroresu. Not long after, Marty got swept up in the “Me too” movement, and Delirious was back to booking ROH. I knew then was the time to get back to ROH, but soon after, the Carona Virus Pandemic hit, and wrestling companies all over the world began altering their schedules, and even shutting down, including Ring of Honor.
During the pandemic I relied on watching old shows, until eventually came news that Ring of Honor would “restart” in empty arenas. I wasn’t real enamored with the idea of empty arenas, so I held off a bit longer. As I began to hear, and read, that ROH was the best at putting on “empty arena shows,” I jumped in with both feet, and am I ever glad that I did! If you want wrestling that is presented in a serious manner, where you don’t have to be “in on the joke” to enjoy it, then Ring of Honor is for you. If you’re disappointed that AEW hasn’t given you a real “sports based, alternative” to sports entertainment wrestling, then Ring of Honor is for you. If you enjoy multiple styles of wrestling, without that meaning foolishness and cringe worthy presentation, then again, Ring of Honor is for you. If you want a good jumping on point, start with the amazing “ROH Final Battle,” 2020.
I’ve spent years searching for “Wrestling Done Right” in the United States. I’ve gained a reputation as being “the Wrestling Snob,” because of my high standards, and expectations. I’m proud of that. If I put something or someone over, fans that love serious, and as realistic as can be presented wrestling, can know that they can trust that is what they will get. My fear though is that a company will back away from what first drew me to them, falling back on silliness, and “sports entertainment” in an attempt to draw in more “fans.” I’ve recently been the victim of that by another American company that I heavily promoted. Let me tell why I don’t believe that will happen with ROH…Cheeseburger! Yes, the silly, gimmicky, goofy, eye rolling, Cheeseburger. You see, Cheeseburger was the one thing in ROH that always made me cringe. While I understood the man behind the gimmick, Brandon Littlejohn, was a great guy, a passionate guy, a dedicated like no one else guy, none of those things mattered to me. The man dressed in goofy gear, wearing a cheeseburger hat, taking bumps from men five times his size, and kicking out of their pin attempts, as the big men look perplexed, wasn’t ROH, and he wasn’t “Wrestling Done Right.”. While I understand an underdog gimmick, this one was just too much for me.
Today, in ROH’s renewed push to bring us a sports based alternative, to show us an athletic competition, very much presented like UFC, where wins and losses matter, where titles have legitimate ranking systems, and serious factions join forces for the betterment of all members, what has sold me the most on ROH being serious, about being serious, is the return of…not Cheeseburger, no, not this time, this time it’s the re-debut of a man once known as Cheeseburger, now billed as The World Famous CB! CB’s pre match interview was excellent, and set the tone for why this was happening, what it meant, and why it mattered. CB not only has a new name, he has a new look, that includes more muscle mass, solid new gear, that includes kick ass entrance gear, and a swagger unlike we’ve ever seen from him, which to be fair, wouldn’t have worked under his old gimmick. To their credit, the commentators, Ian Riccaboni, and Caprice Coleman, sold this like a million dollars, explaining how CB’s size mixes with his style, in a way that makes preparing for a match against him difficult. This is exactly the kind of commentary a debut of this kind needs, and it helped a lot. CB will also be part of the “Pure” division, which will, for the most part, keep him away from facing monsters in the ring. While still smaller than New Japan’s Zack Sabre Jr, comparisons can be made, and make sense. World Famous CB works a technical style that would actually be damaged by putting on too much size. His smooth style is aided by his lean look, contributing to his ability to evade, and escape, in ways that he couldn’t, if he were bigger.
The fact that ROH allowed, and maybe even encouraged, Cheeseburger to get more serious, to evolve into The World Famous CB, is a strong sign to me that I don’t have to worry about ROH going down the silliness rabbit hole. That I can have faith that an American company isn’t going to embarrass me, and that they aren’t going to make me hide the fact that I am a wrestling fan from the general public. The fact that Cheeseburger (this will be the last time I refer to him with that name) gave me any kind of assurance is mind-blowing to me, but that’s the very reason it brings me comfort in saying that once again, Ring of Honor is Wrestling Done Right!
New Show coming to the WDR Network
Coming soon, The WDR Network presents "Not your mother's basement," with the Wrestling Snob, Adam Leavelle, a weekly VLOG covering ROH Wrestling! "Not your mothers basement." A spin on the popular insult about wresting internet fans, posting their opinions, and thoughts, from their "mothers basement." Adam indeed broadcasts from a basement, or as he calls it, a FOUNDATION, his foundation, not his mothers, or anyone else's. Adam worked hard for his house, and he is proud of it, including it's FOUNDATION, the same way he is proud of ROH's "FOUNDATION." The first episode will drop soon, and will be covering ROH TV from Monday, February 15, 2021.